Controversial thriller/horror, shot in only 18 days for less than $1 million, that sees a young schoolgirl taking revenge on an internet paedophile. Ellen Page plays 14-year-old Hayley, who meets a charming fashion photographer, Jeff (Wilson), on the Net and agrees to a rendezvous at his local coffee shop.
After plying his underage buddy with sweets and silver-tongued compliments Jeff eventually manages to convince Hayley to come back to his house to “listen to his record collection”. When they arrive he then does the only sensible thing for a single 32-year-old man entertaining a girl less than half his age in his home … mixes a couple of vodka cocktails and starts taking pictures of her in her pants. But after his second drink things start to get a bit hazy for our charming hero and he wakes to hear Hayley declare: “playtime’s over Jeff” before carrying out what she describes as “a bit of preventive maintenance". Ouch!
We like to think of ourselves as a fairly battle-hardened reviewing team here at Pocket-lint (we sat through all of “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” for God’s sake!) but this modern day morality tale/exploitation thriller proved to be an unusually uncomfortable watch.
In fact, so impressed was horror supremo Wes Craven with “Hard Candy’s” gruesome castration scenes that he invited first-time director David Slade to helm a remake of his notorious 70s rape-revenge movie “The Last House on the Left”.
Slade’s debut is a taut two-hander that could be described as mix between “Misery” and “Lolita”, with a bit of Charles Bronson thrown in for good measure. Page, who was last seen as “Shadowcat” in “X-Men 3”, flicks effortlessly from naïve schoolgirl to psychotic avenger in a staggering performance for one so young (she was only 17 at the time), which is all the more impressive considering that she features in virtually every shot of the film.
A strong special features package that includes two insightful commentaries from the principal players. First up are writer Nelson and director David Slade, whose erudite talk-track covers a variety of topics ranging from the former’s inspiration for the story to the latter’s regrets about material he simply didn’t have time to include in the final edit.
In the alternate commentary, actors Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson then reveal what a challenge it was to work on such a dialogue-driven movie, with an unusually small cast and tiny budget. If that’s not enough for you there is also a 52-minute making of documentary (divided into seven chapters for ease) which includes mountains of information about the film from conception to post-production. Finally, there are six deleted or extended scenes although, sadly, there is no commentary explaining reasons for their absence.
Wilson gives an accomplished turn, and it is a measure of his performance that many viewers will end up feeling some sympathy for his character despite what we learn about his sordid past.
The only minor gripe with their pairing is that the dialogue-heavy scenes occasionally feel more like theatre than cinema, and it would have been nice to have a bit more exposition about Hayley’s past as her motivation for vengeance is never properly explained.
Directed by: David Slade
Extras: Audio commentary from David Slade and Brian Nelson, Audio commentary from actors Patrick Wilson And Ellen Page, Deleted and selected scenes, 'Controversial Confection' featurette 'Creating Hard Candy' documentary,